Storifying the Torch Relay

Until last week I had a healthy cynical view of the Olympic Torch Relay which passed through these parts on Monday 21 May. That cynicism diminished as the day got nearer and preparations in our office became more frantic.

Of course, there’s a lot of baggage with the whole Olympic movement, from the crass commercialisation to the bogus legacy to the dodgy sponsors to the undemocratic actions of the IOC and Locog.

I was at Trafalgar Square on 6 July 2005 secretly wishing Paris would get the games. But, I am truly excited about having the spectacle in our own backyard. I’ve even spent way too much money on tickets for the penultimate day of the athletics.

Back to 2012…

My role on 21 May was to handle the social media side of things. That basically meant tweeting the Torch’s progress through the district, responding to tweets and being available in case some loon decided to take a fire extinguisher to the flame. We’d also prepared to use Facebook and aggregate photos through a Flickr group.

A few nights before, I suddenly had a brain wave and thought about using Storify. For the uninitiated, this is a tool that allows you to create a story of an event using social media contributions. Effectly, Storify allows you to pull in posts from various sources using tags, users and other metadata.

To be honest, this was a last minute thought. I didn’t discuss it with the rest of the team and I’d never used Storify. My limited experience was reading a few stories previously created for conferences and other events.

I gave myself s short tutorial over the weekend and got the feel of it. I added a couple of items just to set the scene and then hoped for the best!

(Unfortunately, it’s not yet possible to embed Storify in WordPress, so you’ll have to settle for a link to our Story and a few embedded tweets.)

Monday dawned and I could feel the adrenaline pumping. It brought back good memories of other jobs where I had to arrange lobbying events and visits by senior bods. I generally got a buzz out of that as well as lack of sleep, blinding headaches and an empty feeling at the end.

We had our team scattered across the district as well as a professional photographer plonked on the Locog horsebox.

NDevon council Torch control room

I booted up my PC and logged in to the live BBC stream just as the convoy left Exeter. I also had my notebook as a backup, but mostly to get the streaming commentary which helped when the convoy was out of 3G range. As you can see, I’ve got two screens so I had Firefox open to run Storify, Echofon and Flickr. As I can’t add the Flash plugin on Firefox, I had to run IE to get the live stream.

And, I started tweeting like a mad thing and picking up content through the Storify media search.

We had about two and a half hours before the convoy hit Barnstaple. But, we also needed to be ready to help our colleagues in Torridge who are much thinner on the ground than us.

As my colleagues went off in various directions, the boss and I were left to run our coverage and provide emergency backup. I had several phone calls from Ilfracombe – highlight of our day as an emotional Jonathan Edwards carried the flame past his old house and into the rugby club for the lunch break. Poor guy probably posed for 500 photos, including our lot from Comms, Sports and all our volunteer stewards.

Meanwhile, I set up my camera and Flip video on the window ledge to catch the convoy as it passed by us, albeit 9.1 seconds away (if you’re Usain Bolt). You can see some of my pathetic attempts on the Storify stream.

For the best part of 8 hours I tweeted as the Torch moved from community to community, tweeted to others on the route and hoovered up content to add to Storify. All told we put out 120 tweets and were retweeted, metioned or favourited about 50 times.

As the Relay went to convoy mode (flame in the Davey lamp), I tidied up Storify. I did more editing overnight as I was able to pick up photos our team loaded to Flickr.

That’s a quick dash through how I put together our social media coverage. We’re still digesting the day, but a few quick thoughts:

  • probably tweeted a bit too much, but we did get a good footprint and lots of engagement from people on the route including press contacts
  • Storify-ing the day was a good experience and the end result is a nice story of the Torch going through our patch
  • what we did wasn’t a replacement for the coverage by the mainstream media, but we did add value, kept people informed and provided a backstop in case things went wrong

I’m thinking of presenting this as a short case study at LocalGovCamp in July. I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts now or, if you’re going to be there, at the event.

In the meantime, I’d like to add that there were so many lovely moments throughout the day. For all the torchbearers it must have been unbelievable. Some of what they achieved – such as the Parkinson’s sufferer who took a few steps out of his wheelchair in Braunton – was fantastic. I hope you all get the chance to share in this unique event. And, if your heart is still hard, well I don’t know what might melt it.




3 Responses to Storifying the Torch Relay

  1. […] Storifying the Torch Relay by  Peter McClymont. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestMoreEmailRedditPrintDiggStumbleUponTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in communicating, communities, digital technology, media, Olympics, public sector, social media, sports, storytelling, working practices and tagged Olympic Torch Relay by weeklyblogclub. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. […] media coverage of the event using Storify, and then blogged to share the story of how he did it in Storifying the Torch Relay, providing another useful example to […]

  3. dianesims says:

    You’ve inspired me to give Storify a go for the torch relay in Kirklees:

    Thank you for this post – it’s very helpful.

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